[EM] it's pleocracy, not democracy

Abd ul-Rahman Lomax abd at lomaxdesign.com
Tue Mar 6 06:20:25 PST 2007

At 02:41 AM 3/6/2007, Jobst Heitzig wrote:
>Dear Abd ul-Rahman,
>you wrote:
> > If we
> > are going to link the randomization that allegedly eliminates
> > injustice to "minority" voters, we must have open voting, we can't
> > have secret ballot. If we have secret ballot, and there is some
> > hidden process that randomizes the results, well, tell me, would
> > *you* trust that such a process was not being manipulated? After all,
> > there would be no way to check.
>It seems to me you are repeating old arguments. First of all, voting
>systems that remember past votings need not be open at all, they can
>use cryptographic methods to keep each voter's voting history secret.
>Second, randomization in practice is always done by pseudorandom
>devices whose seed values can be determined deterministically from the
>ballots, so that the result can be repeated and checked.

I feel like I'm seeing an insistence on an idea that results in a 
failure to understand what is being said. This is the second time in 
a row on this topic. So, sure, I may be repeating old arguments, 
*because they have not been answered.* Rather, the response, 
certainly, fails to indicate to me that the issue has been seen and, 
perhaps, actually countered.

Sure, you can use cryptographic methods to keep each voter's voting 
history secret. In theory. Know of any actual examples?

Unstated here is how the voter's record can be both secret and 
available for analysis. The vote must be *open* to some process. Now, 
it may be indeed possible to keep the identity of the voter secret, 
but also maintain a history for individual anonymous voters. (And, 
I'd suggest, it might not even be possible. A voter moves from one 
jurisdiction to another, so the vote takes place in a different 
precinct -- and it is impossible to separate voting locations from 
voting, since many *elections* are locally based. So, as soon as it 
can be determined that voter X moved from location 1 to location 2, 
in a given period of time, voter registration records can be used to 
determine, in very many cases, the identity of voter X.)

So perhaps all this secrecy can be maintained. But how is it then 
checkable? That is, you may have a system which is theoretically 
sound, but with the level of secrecy required, it becomes extremely 
difficult to verify that it is actually working as desired.

With open voting, it would be trivial.

I understand about pseudorandom numbers. That's not the problem at all.

You may design a system that you consider ideal, and it is even 
possible that a collection of "experts" can consider it secure, but 
the public knows that experts have been wrong in the past and it will 
want something far simpler. If you can design a simple system, great.

But then you still face the problem that you are essentially reducing 
the intelligence of the result. No social value has been shown for 
giving "the minority" the right of decision by some statistical 
means. Range Voting *does* provide a kind of right like this where it 
counts. I.e., where it is important to a minority and not important 
to the majority.

And the very core of my objection is that "the minority" is not a 
fixed group, such that it is deprived by not getting its way.

The thinking behind this proposal seems to be that every citizen 
deserves to "get their way," yet "getting their way" is not the goal 
of electoral choice systems, the goal is maximization of benefit, and 
benefit is maximized by making choices which actually are the best 
for society, and individual opinions are only a clue to what these 
choices are. The theory is that majority opinion, particularly if 
informed, is more likely to be right than wrong. And the converse of 
this is that in the presence of controversy, minority opinion is more 
likely to be wrong, so following the opinion of a minority merely 
because of the outcome of a random process is more likely to increase 
error. That's noise. It is not a *reason* to follow the minority, 
i.e., some reason to expect that the minority opinion is more likely 
to be correct. Generally it is not. Range Voting does allow a reason: 
strength of opinion.

In particularly, more knowledgeable people -- in some cases -- will 
have strong opinions, stronger than the opinions of the ignorant. In 
other cases, it's true, the ignorant will have strong opinions and 
the knowledgeable weak ones, in fact. But in such situations the 
knowledgeable are generally aware of the problem and will, given 
their own assessment of their relative knowledge, amplify their 
preferences to compensate.

But if I'm knowledgeable and I say, well, I'm not sure which of these 
is best, A or B, but the ignorant are quite sure that A is best, 
*there is no harm in allowing the ignorant "their way."* It is only 
when I see -- or believe I see -- that ignorance is causing the 
majority to hold the *wrong* opinion, that I may find it necessary to 
amplify my opinion, which also, of course, assumes that my knowledge 
has led me to have an opinion of some strength.

Yes, I quite easily acknowledge that Range Voting can, under some 
circumstances, devolve to Approval style voting. I don't consider 
this a problem at all, the only reasonable assertion that I've seen 
of a problem involved with this is that this makes the alleged high 
cost of the ballot and counting process useless. That cost, though, 
is generally trivial compared to the importance of the decisions 
being made. It's a phony argument. Range Voting need not be 
complicated, even Range with resolution higher than is probably 
optimal -- in terms of cost-benefit -- isn't particularly difficult.

My point is that there is no value in giving any individual "their 
way" unless they perceive that, for some reason, their needs are 
being neglected in the process. Range methods allow such people some 
means of indicating this, and it is interesting that many here 
consider this a problem!

I have no problem with allowing minorities the right of decision 
*under some circumstances.* Essentially, these are circumstances 
where there is reason to expect that the minority preference might be 
the better one for society. And where minority opinion is strong and 
majority opinion is weak, this is precisely such a situation.

But none of this addresses the *real* problem, which is access and 
communication. When large numbers of people related to the system as 
this big *thing* that does not care about them, that does not listen 
to them, that does not personally communicate with them, they become 
alienated and even, under some circumstances, hostile. The kind of 
system Jobst has proposed would actually make this worse. It would 
not increase the sense of individual voters that the system 
personally responds to them, because the *response* isn't personal at 
all. The voter is just a statistic.

Missing in all this is that I don't want leaders to act according to 
my preferences.

Yes, I don't want leaders to act according to my personal preferences.

Where I have delegated power to others, I want them to act according 
to *their* best judgement of my *benefit*. Yes, where I have a clear 
and strong opinion, I expect them to *consider* that, but if I don't 
trust them to make the best decision, given not only my opinion but 
also their own knowledge and judgement, I would not delegate power to them.

I want to be *heard*, not *obeyed.*

The problem arises because our systems of representative democracy 
don't allow me to *choose* my representative. Instead some anonymous 
and often unverifiable process chooses them. It may choose for me a 
representative that I wouldn't trust with the office of dogcatcher. By far.

There are alternatives. They are known, they have been known for 
hundreds of years. They are a common-law right where property is 
involved, generally. So why do we have something less with politics?

History and inertia and cynicism and despair. We could have this 
tomorrow if we woke up. (Almost literally tomorrow....)

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